A mordant look at the wrong notion of “active participation”

From the amusing Eye of the Tiber:

Culver City, CA––Parishioners of St. Raymond Catholic Church in Culver City, California were forced to jump into action during Mass early Monday morning when it appeared that only one priest would be available for the consecration. According to sources at the scene, parishioners went into a frenzy when it appeared that visiting priest Fr. Bryce Carbone was close to saying the words of consecration all by himself. [!] “Our regular pastor, Fr. Ed, usually invites us all to gather and encircle the Lord’s table during consecration,” said longtime parishioner Donna Fullwood, before reassuring reporters that Carbone was doing well despite his brush with Mass without liturgical participation. “All I can say is it was a close call. I know a few parishioners are a little shaken up thinking of what could’ve happened if they hadn’t been able to participate. All’s well that ends well, though.” 56-year-old Fullwood went on to recount the story of how 20 or so quick-thinking parishioners rushed into action as Carbone prepared to consecrate the bread and wine without a single layman there to assist him. “We all looked at each other like ‘Oh no,’ then rushed to the altar as quick as we could and surrounded it. Then we all lifted one hand each in the concelabratory way. It was amazing how fast everyone moved to assist Fr. Bryce. I’m sure he’s really thankful. Maybe they’ll make a movie about it one day, like Zero Dark Thirty or something.”

Remember: A thousand lay people, ten thousand, a million, can say the words of consecration over bread and wine again and again and again with all the fervor they can humanly muster and, at the end of the day, there will still be only bread and wine on the altar. A single priest, even a little distracted, can whisper the words of consecration over the same bread and wine and they become the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ.

The priesthood shared in by all the baptized and the priesthood of the ordained are qualitatively different. Lay people, by their participation in Christ’s priesthood as the baptized, are enabled to offer in their manner spiritual sacrifices and join their sacrifices to that which the priest does at the altar in his way.

Priesthood is for sacrifice. Sacrifice requires priesthood. No priest, no sacrifice.

Pray for an increase in vocations to the priesthood.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Liberals, Lighter fare, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, Our Catholic Identity, Priests and Priesthood and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. stebert says:

    To me, it seems the core problem with contemporary so-called liturgists is this:

    Participation which is not seen is not seen as participation.

    Whatever did that poor visiting priest think as the sanctuary was invaded? [?!?]

  2. thickmick says:

    lol….good one. How’s this for a new one…Respect, honor and most importantly OBEY our Priests. I know that’s crazy wacko stuff, but I’m feelin’ crazy today.

  3. St. Louis IX says:

    Another reason for Altar Rails, with working gates.

  4. Supertradmum says:

    Ridiculous and I have heard people in Eire say the words of consecration at Mass while the priest does. Confusion. Indeed, pray for vocations. Even here is supposedly the most Catholic country in the world, vocations are down.

    There will be wide areas of the world of the West where there will be no Mass. People do not get it, yet.

  5. Darren says:

    Re: St. Louis IX says:
    Another reason for Altar Rails, with working gates.

    Electrified rails and gates!

  6. mamajen says:

    Reminds me of the student masses I had the misfortune of attending during college. *Shudder*

    Fortunately my understanding of participation doesn’t go to that extreme, but I think all of us who have known only the Novus Ordo have a hard time letting go of what we have been programmed to believe participation is. When I attended my first Latin mass I felt really let down because I basically just sat there and listened. I felt like I was supposed to be doing more in order for it to “count” or benefit me in some way. I know better now, but it’s still tricky getting past what I’ve known my whole life. If I’ve learned one thing since starting to read Pope Benedict’s Jesus of Nazareth (first one), it’s that a lot of what I thought I knew was rather off-base, and the truth is so much richer.

  7. Andy Lucy says:

    Just a reminder… Eye of the Tiber is a parody/satire site. Just a little reminder, lest anyone think this actually happened. I heartily recommend the site, as it is incredibly intelligent and humorous.

    I guess it is even more depressing that a reminder is even necessary.

  8. jaykay says:

    Amen and amen to your last para, Andy Lucy! Fr. Z has posted from “Eye” quite a bit recently and still…

    Supertradmum: I have lived in Ireland all my life, and attended Mass virtually everywhere, and have never, ever heard the words of consecration repeated by the congregation, or even one person in it. (And, yet again: nobody actually refers to the country as “Eire” when speaking or writing in English).

  9. Jeannie_C says:

    jaykay, sadly, here in Canada we do hear some members of the congregation mumbling along with the priest the words of consecration, also with hands in position. Not many, but enough to distract our attention from what the priest is doing to what the layperson is trying to help with. My husband and I try to situate ourselves in pews away from these folks, who invariably like to grab hands for the Our Father.

  10. Jeannie_C says:

    jaykay, further to my response to your statement, this includes provinces from one end of Canada to the other. We could snap undercover photos next mass to prove the case but that would be worse than mumbling along.

  11. Stumbler but trying says:

    Please pray for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, CA. I have attended Sunday mass off and on over these many years at one parish where for the longest time, it was run by priests from Spain. They were wonderful. Al have retired and now a younger group of priests are there but there’s a problem and I am unhappy. They renovated the church, took out the beautiful communion rails, expanded the main altar and sit in a chair that looks like it was made for a king. My one distraction and the most irritating one is the fact that one of the priests before the consecration, calls up all the kids to stand around the altar with him. They either run towards the altar or scramble up there with so much disrespect I close my eyes and pray for mercy/help. Ignorance of what is about to take place is on full display and I have had to stop attending there…reason being is what the priest does after consecrating the bread and wine, he starts to quiz the kids about the sermon, about the Saints and then proceeds to reward them with money if they answer correctly. Afterwards, the congregation applause and the kids all go back to their respective pews. The pastor does nothing about it even after the priest who does this told the congregation that “someone” complained about him doing so.
    I will stop now as it is too upsetting to know that this one beloved parish is not the one I remember as a child…I will pray for all priests there and for the community there. I will pray for an increase in holy vocations to the priesthood and for all priests the world over.
    Virgencita de Guadalupe ora por nosotros. Amen

  12. AlexE says:

    I am mumbler, but I am not trying to “help” it’s a bad habit I have a hard time dropping because it helps me focus on the events of the Paschal Mystery which are “unfolding” during the Eucharistic Prayer….

  13. VexillaRegis says:

    Dear Stumbler:

    How terrible! Has anyone said something to the bishop?
    La Virgen de Guadalupe esta llorando por sus niñjos.

  14. Jeannie_C says:

    AlexE, your type of mumbling is not what we are criticizing. There is an elderly lady who sits two pews ahead of us, she also mumbles along, and in fact interjects with her thoughts. She is quite deaf so I wonder whether this has created the thinking and following out loud in her case? But back to the liturgical mumbling, helping to consecrate – another matter entirely, and my husband and I find this difficult to tune out because it’s wrong, so it grates.

  15. Jon says:

    All this can be resolved instantly with immediate, sole, and permanent resort to Summorum Pontificum.

    As for a vocations crisis, with 41 men in seminary for my little diocese, I don’t think there is a vocations crisis – at least one created by anything other than bishops who want one.


    What the article fails to mention is that through the generosity of our current bishop and his predecessor, the TLM is celebrated regularly in about half a dozen places. From the FSSP apostolate of which I’m a member, we have one priest (FSSP), a transitional deacon to be ordained this spring (diocesan), two in seminary (diocesan), and three probable other vocations.

    Btw, I too have had the unsettling experience of hearing laity mutter the words of Consecration; in the diocese of one of the most famously liberal and heterodox bishops, recently deceased, the country has ever seen.

  16. tzard says:

    The original post is satire -for sure.

    But – I do remember, back in the days, things just like this happening. Especially regular retreats where strange things became “custom” – so much so when a good priest insisted on sticking to the rules, the retreat veterans would rush up to “fix” things.

    The Eye’s post is a case here of art, imitating life. We can be thankful people are more circumspect nowadays, from what I see.

  17. yatzer says:

    Stumbler, I wonder when that guy was ordained. What you described sounds exactly like what a new priest did in the 1980’s, except he used gummy worms. I wonder if maybe they were taught that was a good sort of thing to do.

  18. tonyfernandez says:

    You know, locating this in Culver City made it sound believable. Oh Los Angeles, the culture you have brought me up in.

  19. Stumbler but trying says:

    @ VexillaRegis and yatzer:
    I am not sure if the Bishop was notified but we currently have no Bishop for the San Gabriel region as the previous one resigned last year on a sad note. Anyway, the priest who does this is good otherwise, but he goes off track and is inconsistent so I think somewhere there is hope we can pray him onto the right and most royal road of fidelity.
    The parish is packed every Sunday, all the time, so I know the Lord is at work but to have to watch what I have seen, my heart cannot. They plan to set aside a specific room for perpetual adoration so I know, soon and in His own time, the Lord will not tolerate anything but a faithful and humble celebration of the holy Mass. ^^
    My hopes lie with Jesus and his mama, La Virgencita de Guadalupe. Amen.

  20. jacobi says:

    Active participation does not mean lay involvement in the sanctuary – or anywhere else.

    Pope St Pius X called for “active participation” in his motu proprio, Tra le sollecitudini, in 1903. It meant that “the faithful assemble to draw that spirit from its primary and indispensable source, that is, from active participation in the sacred mysteries and in the public and solemn prayer of the Church.” He would certainly have had nothing to do with physical involvement in the Mass by laity.

    It is actually defined in Sacrosanctum Concilium, I.30., and again, has nothing to do with physical involvement in the sanctuary.

    It means in effect “paying attention” to what is going on – from, not in, the pews!

  21. jacobi says:

    Oops~! That last line should have read, – from, and in , the pews – obviously!

  22. VexillaRegis says:

    Dear jacobi,

    “Active participation does not mean lay involvement in the sanctuary – or anywhere else.” So, in your opinion, I, a lay organist (MA), should leave the organ bench to – no one?

  23. Jeannie_C says:

    I have a confession to make – I can’t pray the Rosary without mumbling the words. Cannot pray it silently in my head. But, I don’t mumble the Consecration. Honest.

  24. tonyfernandez says:

    I think you’re fine Jeannie. If it helps you focus that’s fine as long as you’re not distracting others. The problem is when people are playing the part of the priest and blurring the hierarchical distinctions. The priest is the only one that can consecrate, not the people, and the people need to understand that.

  25. mcford1 says:

    The article might be a satire to some people, but it is an ABSOLUTELY SPOT-ON description of the daily morning Masses at the parish nearest me (needless to say, I drive considerably farther on to attend daily Mass). Most satires contain at least a grain of truth, but this one was so completely accurate that I could say it was more like a documentary. Except for the fact that the satirical Mass takes place in California, while I live in Oregon…

  26. jacobi says:

    Dear VexillaRegis,

    You raise a fair point. We are talking here about lay assumption of what were, previously, solely priestly roles and I don’t think yours was one such?
    Is the organ bench, by the way, technically in the sanctuary?

  27. Precentrix says:

    Vexilla Regis:

    Ditto; though if any priest, deacon, seminarian or boy wants me to teach him a) Latin b) Gregorian chant or c) to play the organ, at least for the accompaniment (read ‘keeping in tune’) of said chant, I would be more than happy to oblige. I once saw a seminary timetable from years and years ago; it had eight hours of chant practice scheduled, every week, for four years.

  28. The Masked Chicken says:

    “‘Active participation does not mean lay involvement in the sanctuary – or anywhere else.’ So, in your opinion, I, a lay organist (MA), should leave the organ bench to – no one?


    Two points:

    1. A church musician is a recognized liturgical functionary, as shown in Musicam Sacram:

    “8. Whenever, for a liturgical service which is to be celebrated in sung form, one can make a choice between various people, it is desirable that those who are known to be more proficient in singing be given preference; this is especially the case in more solemn liturgical celebrations and in those which either require more difficult singing, or are transmitted by radio or television.[6]

    “13. Liturgical services are celebrations of the Church, that is, of the holy people, united under and directed by the bishop or priest.[10] The priest and his ministers, because of the sacred order they have received, hold a special place in these celebrations, as do also—by reason of the ministry they perform—the servers, readers, commentators and those in the choir.[11]”

    “22. The choir can consist, according to the customs of each country and other circumstances, of either men and boys, or men and boys only, or men and women, or even, where there is a genuine case for it, of women only.”

    2. Necessity has no law. If the organ is in the sanctuary, then the organist must, necessarily, be there.

    The Chicken

  29. The Masked Chicken says:

    Don’t quote me, but I seem to remember that in the old days (Medieval), organists had, at least, minor Orders.

    The Chicken

  30. Precentrix says:

    I recall the same thing. Of course, I’m a girl, so clearly not in minor orders of any sort.

    Remember, too… the Byzantines won’t ordain a man who can’t sing. Hmmmm…..

  31. VexillaRegis says:

    Dear friends,

    the organ isn’t usually placed in the sanctuary – I was focusing on the end of Jacobi’s sentence: “or anywhere else”, which to me sounds like “no lay organists in the organ loft either”. I also seem to remember something about organists having to have minor orders.

  32. VexillaRegis says:

    Dear jacobi,

    I’m really interested in what you meant in your statement!

    Have a nice day.

Comments are closed.